A Tale of a Serpent
© Copyright 2023 by Asma Janjua
Image by JD from Pixabay
This is the tale of a harrowing encounter with the snake. As they say, every great story begins with a snake, it happened in the winters of 1991 but the memories can still raise goosebumps .Northern parts of Pakistan are well known for their hilly terrains and wealth of flora and fauna.Rawalpindi is the Twin City of the capital Islamabad located in the north of Pakistan. The city’s main highlight is the country’s military headquarters, but people prefer to make their homes here because of the moderate temperatures and a smaller population.
We lived in an old house, hoisted on a hill in Rawalpindi. A narrow road with a steep incline and overgrown grass and weeds on the sides, lead up to the iron gated abode. The heavy iron gates, lead in to a covered car porch. The big, sprawling house was divided into portions and built on different levels with a beautifully landscaped garden on top. Tall, majestic, white pillars, supported a sloping roof of red bricks over the top of car porch. A white balustrade provided a nice vantage point.Dark grey , hard stone covered the floor of the porch and chipped white plaster adorned the walls. There was an aura of rustic deshabille.A wooden net door covered the main entrance. The door opened into a spacious open floor living area. The place evoked memories of the Victorian era, with panelled walls and bay windows.
Damp and musty odour added to the mystique of the bygone era. A huge kitchen, with ample cabinet space was connected to the living area.An artfully placed window brought enough light to make the room welcoming.The outer kitchen door led down, stone stairs to the servants rooms. The bedroom was separated from the living area by a raised foyer, which had a staircase leading up to the rest of the house. Wooden steps lowered into the bedroom from the foyer. The bedroom was probably a later addition to the house, as it was huge and very well lit. A tall, majestic ,wooden door opened on to a patio. Dark wood paneling with intricate details adorned the walls. And French windows opened onto a raised balcony on one side. A Well equipped dressing room preceded the en suite. The door to the dressing room stood midway between the patio doors and the door to the foyer.
The sun rose as usual on the fateful day. It was a crisp ,sunny winter morning. My husband was getting ready for work. My three months old daughter was cranky for her morning feed and my two years old son was bouncing around with his abundant morning energy. After feeding my daughter, I took my son to the dining area for his breakfast. I managed to feed him egg and toast between his garbled stories. My husband left for work after breakfast, and my house help retired to his room. I went back to my bedroom with my son. I took him to the bathroom and sat him on the pot for his morning routine.
I returned to my bedroom to check on my daughter. She was sleeping peacefully with a blissful smile. I turned around, enjoying the sing song voice of my son coming from the bathroom and was rooted to the spot. A dark shadow caught my eye, near the patio door. I looked again and there it was, a 4 feet long, blackish, green, motley serpent slithering along the panelled wall.
Petrified, I watched it crawl towards the door of the dressing room. I was frozen with fear. Mama’, a shrill voice pierced my dazed stupor. I woke up to realise that my son was in danger. Another fear took over. Fear for my sons safety galvanised me into action. With my eyes fixed on the snake, I started moving. I stepped on to the creaking wooden stairs to reach the foyer and called for help. No one came. The servants rooms were too far away. I called again. Nobody came.
My fears were mounting. My heart was in my mouth and I was hyper ventilating. I hurried back into the room to check the snakes position. I called out to my son to stay and not to come out of the bathroom.All snakes related information was flooding my mind. Snake bite caused death of 80000 to 140000 people per year and most of them happened in South Asia. With the venomous snakes swirling in my head ,I ran back up to the foyer to call for help again.
Amazingly, the snake stopped moving. Probably it felt the fear of the helpless mother and sat there motionless trying to reassure and mollify me. But my fear was killing me, and I kept calling for help. I cannot recall the exact time when help arrived, but it seemed like eons.
Finally lady luck shined, and my house help arrived. He carried the snake out of the house and sanity returned. The death grip of the fear loosened, but did not let go completely. I brought my son out of the bathroom, hugged close to my chest. The poor child had no idea about the horrendous episode and was trying to wiggle free of my grasp.
But the vestiges of fear still clung to my mind, and I kept him close to my side. Another scar was added to the colossal burden of my insane fears.
They can be crazy, preposterous, or absurd, but they are real and tangible to me and make my life very difficult. Order was restored, but my fears prevail. Me and my fears live in paradoxical harmony with a pact that one cannot ostracise the other.
I am Asma Janjua, 58 years old Clinical Cardiologist, Mother of three awesome children, Avid reader of prose and poetry.
My home is in Islamabad, Pakistan.